Meet Chi-chi Nwanoku

Chi-chi Nwanoku London double bass player

Listen to Chi-chi Nwanoku’s Interview with Caitriona Bolster, KWAX Radio, Portland, OR

Chi-chi Nwanoku was born in London of Nigerian and Irish parents, and is the oldest of five children. She spent two years of her early childhood living in her much loved fatherland, Imo State, Nigeria. She continues to visit at every opportunity with her children.

At the age of seven she discovered music on a neighbour’s piano, and was so inspired by it’s sounds and possibilities that she began her education as a classical musician.

A year later Chi-chi was ‘spotted’ by an athletics coach, and took on intensive training as a 100-metre sprinter. She reached competition at ‘national’ level within ten years, but this career ended very abruptly following an unfortunate knee injury.

Fortunately her other passion as a classical pianist had continued alongside her athletics, and she was able at the age of eighteen to take up the double bass and pursue a career in music.

She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and with Franco Petracchi in Rome, and soon found herself in demand internationally.

She is a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and held the position of Principal double bass there for 30 years. She is Professor of Double Bass Historical Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was made a Fellow in 1998, and gives Masterclasses as a visiting Professor at Conservatoires worldwide.

Chi-chi Nwanoku double bass player LondonShe has become one of England’s most sought after double bass players, and has developed a worldwide reputation as one of the finest exponents on her instrument today.

Chi-chi plays a unique historical instrument built by Nicolas Amati (Cremona), dated 1631.

Her first professional position was as Principal double bass with the London Mozart Players, and since then she has performed and recorded as principal and soloist with many of Europe’s prestigious chamber orchestras and ensembles. These include the Academy of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, English Baroque Soloists, London Classical Players and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique.

As a broadcaster, Chi-chi presented BBC Radio 3 Requests for four years, guests for the TV Proms and was a Jury member of BBC 2 Television’s Classical Star.

She is involved in a number of musical organisations, and is on the Board of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Association of British Orchestras, and Royal Philharmonic Society. She is Patron of Kuumba Youth Music, a Patron of the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians, Music Preserved, Kew Music Festival and the Cherubim Trust

Chi-chi was awarded an MBE for services to Music in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday honours. She was voted one of the 100 – Happy List in the Independent on Sunday 2011.

Chi-chi has a wide range of musical interests, resulting in her involvement in the cutting edge of diverse styles of performance practise. This includes authentic style baroque performances, through the periods until the contemporary.

She gave the UK premiere performance of Ferneyhough’s ‘Trittico per G.S.’ for solo double bass in 1996, and is the double bass soloist on the recording of Alexander Goehr’s ‘Sing Ariel’, conducted by Oliver Knussen.

chi-chi nwanoku london double bassistChi-chi compiled a varied solo programme for the BBC Radio 3 series ‘Tuning Up’, which was selected for ‘Pick of the Week’. She has also been interviewed for ‘Woman’s Hour’, ‘Kaleidescope’, and ‘Comparing Notes’.

She was featured as a soloist on a BBC 2 television series ‘Strings, Bows and Bellows’, and Channel 4 television’s ‘Shooting Stars’ in 1994/5. She presents a weekly programme Radio Three Requests on BBC Radio 3 every Sunday 2-4pm. Chi-chi was a jury member of ‘Classical Star’, featured on BBC 2 TV in 2007. Her extensive discography includes three recordings of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet, with Domus, Hausmusik and Trio Fontennay with Nabuko Imai (viola), for Virgin, EMI and Teldec respectively. There are also recordings of the Schubert Octet, Beethoven Septet, Rossini String Sonatas (a Quattro) and Boccherini ‘cello sonatas (with Richard Lester/Hyperion).

She has made many symphonic recordings as orchestral principal.

In October 2000 Hyperion label released Chi-chi’s first solo recording to critical acclaim. This includes three double bass concertos by Vanhal and Dittersdorf, with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Hyperion CD 67179.

Chi-chi presently lives in London with her two lively children, Jacob and Phoebe, who through their own shared interests have led Chi-chi back to ‘the track’ where she has begun to compete over 100 metres again…as a veteran!

View Tales from the Bass Line, a documentary about Chi-chi-Nwanoku, classical double bass player:


A Grand, Grand Overture – Last Night of the Proms

A Grand, Grand Overture, composed by Malcolm Arnold, commissioned for Gerard Hoffnung has its premiere performance at the Last Night of the Proms

Jiří Bělohlávek, Goldie, Jennifer Pike – vacuum cleaners
Sir David Attenborough – floor polisher
Rory Bremner, Stephen Hough, Martha Kearney,
Chi-chi Nwanoku – rifles